True story. After spending a lovely week in Virginia at an author friend’s lake house (thriller writer David Baldacci), our family was on our way home to Salt Lake, flying out of Washington’s Ronald Reagan airport. When we arrived at the gate we were informed that our flight had been delayed four hours. Delayed flights are never fun, but back then we had a large, young family: two, two-year-olds, a six-year-old and two teenagers who, after being in the car for three hours, were all out of control.
As I sat there in the crowded terminal watching the little ones rage like an unchecked forest fire, I checked our tickets to see what section of the plane our tribe would be blessing. That’s when I realized that the airline had, inexplicably, scattered our tickets throughout the plane. Not one of us was sitting next to each other.
I walked up to the gate agent, who was clearly not having his best day. “There’s been a mistake,” I said, laying out our boarding passes. “None of our seats are together.”
“You should have booked them together,” the agent snipped.
“We did,” I replied.
The man’s eyes narrowed. “If you did, they would be together, wouldn’t they?”
“Look,” I said, doing my best to remain civil. “The tickets were all booked at the same time. We were all together coming out here, I had no reason to believe your airline would scatter them going back.”
“Well there’s nothing I can do about that now,” he replied. “The flight’s oversold.”
“But two of our kids aren’t even two-years-old,” I said.
“Sorry,” he said, clearly not. “There’s nothing I can do.”
“I’d like to speak with a manager,” I said.
“We’re all a little busy right now,” he replied. “I will page you when she can talk.”
I went back and told Keri about the situation. “You’ve got to be kidding,” she said. “They can’t do that.”
“Well, they did,” I said. “And they’re not too concerned about it.” After an hour we still hadn’t heard anything so I walked back up to the gate agent who, unbelievably, was even more rude. Before I opened my mouth he said, “I told you we’ll get to it when we can.”
Again I went back to herding the kids, who had now knocked over an ATM machine and were taking it apart. Keri and I were at a breaking point.
Suddenly it dawned on me that I had been going about this all wrong. I walked back up to the gate agent.
His eyes flashed when he saw me. “I told you…”
“No,” I said, holding up my hand. “No worries. I just wanted to tell you, we’re okay.”
He looked at me blankly. “What?”
“We’re okay. You don’t have to change our seats. Thanks.”
Now he looked real upset. “What?”
I looked over at my kids, one of whom was now chewing the vinyl off a chair. “Look at them. In another hour they’ll be eating each other. We’re perfectly happy letting someone else watch them for the next four hours. Thanks for the free babysitting.”
The guy turned pale.
“So, we’re good. Thank you.” I turned and walked away.
Five minutes later I was paged over to the ticket desk. Without a word the agent handed me seven tickets all next to each other. I should have just kept my mouth shut.
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Richard Paul Evans is the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of 27 novels. If you’re new to Richard’s books we recommend the New York Times bestselling The Walk series, the story of a man who, upon losing his wife, home and business, decides to walk across America. Or his latest novel, a love story, The Mistletoe Promise, available in all formats.